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With the unprecedented planned spending for customer self-service portals, companies are looking for help on where to start. Over the last year, TSIA's VP of Support Services Research, Judith Platz, and I have had the opportunity to work with multiple TSIA members on evaluating their current self-service programs, tools and metrics, and making recommendations on investment priorities to accelerate self-service success. I'm hoping these engagements have been as informative for the members as they have been for us.

As we head into 2017, I wanted to recap some trends and member pacesetter practices we are tracking related to self-service.

#1. Online Customer Engagement Strategy

The traditional self-service site, with a searchable knowledge base and case creation options, are really just one element in a customer engagement strategy. With an eye toward customer success, companies are now looking at merging various elements, including education, support, and community into a single experience. But, this means that portal projects are becoming more political, with a committee that spans across support, IT, education services, marketing, and maybe even sales if there is an e-commerce tie-in.

#2. Consolidate Your Content Without Moving Data

The single most common recommendation I make when assessing self-service sites is to eliminate the silos of content and introduce a unified search platform that allows customers to simultaneously search every knowledge repository (knowledge base, community, product documentation, release notes, learning modules, etc.) with filtering options to drill down more granularly into results. Rest assured, you won't have to migrate old content into a new knowledge base or consolidate content sources. Instead, keep the content where it is and index it, allowing for seamless search.


#3. Drive Deflection with Proactive Support

Currently, only 26% of companies prompt customers with possible solutions while they are creating a case online. This is a critical feature to include for self-service, as customers may be bypassing your knowledge base and community to just create a case, even if there is a well-documented solution to their problem. An excellent example of a company who is doing this right is RingCentral, who leverages the information customers enter into an online case form to prompt them with knowledge articles or training modules that may solve the problem. Not only does this proactive approach to self-service increase deflection, it allows you to calculate deflection more accurately. RingCentral can detect when someone begins creating a web case online, then cancels the action due to content prompted to them during the case creation process. As a result, RingCentral has an impressive 43% deflection rate in this process, and their calculations are much more reliable than estimates based on surveys or click streams.

#4. Social Staffing

As communities become an increasingly important element of self-service, companies need to get the staffing model figured out. I am increasingly convinced that interacting with customers via social channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, or online communities) requires a different set of skills than traditional phone and email support. One company who is doing an exceptional job of social support is Dell, who has 200+ employees dedicated to social media support and community moderation. The key here is that this social team closely collaborates with the core support team to understand product and problem trends, and to share findings from social interactions. Dell also has an outstanding analytics program for self-service, including a lot of pacesetter capabilities such as click stream analysis, content gap analysis, and top used content analysis.

How Are You Planning Your Online Customer Engagement Strategy This Year?

I know there are a lot of kickoff meetings to plan for 2017, and hopefully creating an online customer engagement strategy is on your list of things to do. If you need help evaluating your current self-service approach, or want help planning the ultimate customer portal, TSIA is only an inquiry away. Wishing everyone a wonderful New Year, and as always, thanks for reading!

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John Ragsdale

About Author John Ragsdale

John Ragsdale is a distinguished researcher and the vice president of technology ecosystems for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. John works closely with TSIA’s partner ecosystem, identifying leading and emerging technology vendors whose products help solve the key business challenges faced by TSIA members. He is also author of the book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry.

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